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July 12, 2018
Vol. 13
No. 21

Time Management Problems? Check Your Working Style

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Instructional StrategiesClassroom Management
What would happen if, every time someone had a fever, they received an aspirin and only an aspirin to remediate the fever? You might get one of these four results:
  • The fever immediately subsides.
  • The fever eventually subsides.
  • The fever manifests different symptoms.
  • Something critical or catastrophic occurs.
The point is that every time someone has a fever, that fever exists for a reason. An aspirin treats the symptom, not the cause. Only in very few cases does treating the symptom alone solve the problem. In the case of time management, treating the symptoms often intensifies the problem by masking the root causes, which are often related to mindset, vision, and goal alignment. The compounding results can lead great educators down a path to burnout.
In my effort to best support teachers and leaders, I became obsessive in trying to identify the root causes of time management issues, so I could better coach them (and myself) to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. I found that time management can be a symptom that shields us from addressing bigger problems with how we engage in complex work. This work has led me to identify eight working styles that feed associated time management issues. Do you identify with any of these types?

The Work Avoidant Person

There is a significant difference between not managing your time and not wanting to engage in complex tasks. Work-avoidant people tend to procrastinate, and then push the blame onto time management.
One quick strategy: Work-avoidant people can focus on honing their grit. The ability to persist allows one to tackle complex tasks. Build in rewards for yourself as you work toward completing big tasks or those you find yourself avoiding.

The People Pleaser

The people pleaser is in a constant state of stress as a result of working to make everyone else's lives easier. The people pleaser struggles with managing their time because they struggle to say no.
One quick strategy: Identify the purpose in everything you do. Often, people pleasers spend their time carrying out someone else's core purpose, not their own.

The Prisoner of the Moment

The prisoner of the moment continually distracts themselves with new ideas and new work instead of following through on the task at hand. The prisoner of the moment never finishes anything but may start 18 projects in a single day.
One quick strategy: Train your brain to slow down. Try yoga or mediation.

The Checklist-Dependent Person

Checklists are not inherently bad, but a person that depends on checklists doesn't necessarily think critically about their goals and how best to accomplish them. Most checklists simply document tasks, which can obscure the big picture of what you're trying to accomplish and why.
One quick strategy: Amplify your checklists by creating if/then checklists. These help you prioritize and identify the complexity of each task instead of completing only the easy tasks. For instance, IF I complete the task of parent communication, THEN I can pick up the cups for the party next week.

The Disorganized Person

Issues with disorganization are often conflated with time management issues. Being disorganized may help make you inefficient, but it does not sentence you to that fate.
One quick strategy: Organize loose paperwork into three piles: (1) things I must use regularly, (2) things that are someone else's responsibility, and 3) items I need to keep but will only use infrequently.

The Technology-Avoidant Person

Technology has made it so much easier to stay organized and maximize efficiency that not embracing technology inhibits productivity. So much of the world is driven digitally, and a refusal to learn can sentence one to struggle with efficiency.
One quick strategy: It can be daunting to learn something new in isolation. Identify a trusted colleague or friend who can mentor you in your new skill. And never underestimate the power of the YouTube tutorial.

The Self-Serving Person

People that do exactly what they want to do instead of what they need to do often struggle with have time management. If you cannot return emails in a timely manner but have time to engage in small talk for several hours per day, you may have self-serving tendencies.
One quick strategy: Practice empathy. Force yourself to consider the needs of others and your organization when deciding how to use any discretionary time. Often, we have no idea we are using our time in a self-serving manner until we proactively and deeply think about the effect of our actions.

The Perpetually Imbalanced Person

Many people struggle to find balance in a life filled with competing priorities. People that tend to flit from one priority to another often have difficulty managing their time. If you are all in on your professional growth one month and then fall behind in the following months as you focus on family and fitness, this tendency to imbalance may be the root issue of your time mismanagement.
One quick strategy: Stop seeking balance and find the usage of time that makes you the best version of yourself. This combination is different for everyone; do not try to live up to anybody else's schedule.
You may be thinking we are all a little bit of all of these. I believe we are, myself included. There are times when I depend too much on checklists, other times when I seem perpetually distracted, and still other times when I find myself operating in a manner I enjoy, but that is not very productive. But by noticing which type our issues with time tend toward, we can begin to reclaim not only our time, but our satisfaction as effective, balanced educators. A deeper understanding of our own and others root causes behind time management issues will not only help you work better, but also live better.

PJ Caposey is the Illinois Superintendent of the Year, a finalist for 2023 National Superintendent of the Year, and a best-selling author. His latest book, coauthored with Bryan Wills, is Cracking the Coaching Code: Using Personality Archetypes to Maximize Performance (Rowman & Littlefield, 2023).

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